SALT LAKE CITY — DeVonte Christopher has made his way to the front of the room. Although he's led the Utah Utes in receiving the past two seasons, Christopher was an underclassman. In team meetings, that meant sitting behind the seniors, following a long-established pecking order by class.
This spring, however, Christopher has come of age. As a senior, he's not taking a backseat to anyone.
"When you sit in that front row, you're just like 'Wow, it's here.' It's definitely hit me," Christopher said while noting that the journey has been a long one. "It's been a good ride, though."
Christopher arrived on campus in the spring of 2008 as a highly touted quarterback out of Canyon Springs High in North Las Vegas, doing so as the Nevada Prep Player of the Year after passing for 3,265 yards and 44 touchdowns.
At Utah, though, Christopher initially quarterbacked the scout teams and spent his first campaign as a redshirt. The next year, he was moved to wide receiver — where he has gone on to make 83 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns in 35 games over his career.
Things, obviously, have turned out well and Christopher has no regrets.
"I'm definitely happy with how my career progressed," he said. "That's Coach Whit. He's the one who made the change and told me I'd probably be a better fit for the team as receiver."
Christopher's 39 catches in 2010 and 42 grabs in 2011 topped the team.
"It's been a complete transition now," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "He knows all the subtleties of the position."
As such, Whittingham continued, Christopher's ability and work ethic should make for a very good senior year.
"I can't believe how fast it's gone, but this is his year. We're counting on him to be a big part of the offense," Whittingham said. "He's had a very good spring so far and has really made the transition to wide receiver."
So well, in fact, that Whittingham believes Christopher has the skills to play in the NFL.
"I believe he's got the ability to do that. He's got to be consistent," Whittingham said. "That's probably the thing that has been his downside through the years here is consistency. But so far this spring, he's been very consistent."
Good health has been a factor. At the end of last season, Christopher had an injured ankle, knee, wrist and toe. Even so, he wound up earning Special Teams MVP honors in the Sun Bowl after racking up 97 yards on two kickoff returns in the win over Georgia Tech.
"Everybody played hurt so you've just got to battle through it and play," Christopher said before acknowledging the benefits of being healed up. "I'm definitely happy to be healthy out here. It definitely feels good to practice when you're healthy versus when you're hurt and injured."
The same can be said of starting quarterback Jordan Wynn. He's back after undergoing two shoulder surgeries in a 10-month span.
"To be going into your senior year with guys who you grew up with in the program is definitely a big thing," Christopher said. "I'm definitely looking forward to the fall. We've got a long ways to the fall, but I'm itchy to get there."
Wynn is also looking forward to a healthy teaming with Christopher when the Utes embark upon their second season in the Pac-12.
"Definitely. He's a guy that knows what his role needs to be and he's stepping up as a leader this year and playing with him for so long we have a connection," Wynn said. "He's got a solid football IQ and kind of sees what I see and adjusts routes and stuff. So I think he's coming along and is at where he needs to be."
Christopher's extensive background as a quarterback has proven to be quite valuable. Whittingham said his understanding of coverages and defensive structures is quite helpful. It's something the Utes expect all of their players on offense to know.
"It's part of being a complete player," Whittingham explained. "You can't just know your little area, you've got to see the big picture."
And that's exactly how Christopher sees things. He's determined to have a big senior season as part of an offense that ranks among the nation's elite.
"That's our goal. We don't want to just be good. We want to be great," Christopher said. "That comes with everybody's single play cultivating into a team effort. So I definitely want to come out and play well this fall."10 comments on this story
EXTRA POINTS: After Tuesday's practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Whittingham said that the Utes had another positive day. He noted that they really haven't had a bad practice yet this spring. ... Utah has five spring practices remaining. The next one is Thursday from 3-5 p.m., at Rice-Eccles Stadium. ... Running back Kelvin York spent Tuesday in "the Pit" after spraining his knee in last week's scrimmage. He's expected to be back in practice as early as Thursday. Same goes for cornerback Ryan Lacy, who Whittingham said got "dinged" a couple of practices ago and has been held out of action for precautionary reasons. ... Whittingham acknowledged that several veterans, including Lacy, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, linebacker Trevor Reilly and running back John White, will be held out of this Saturday's scrimmage.